How to Shuck Oysters Like a Pro in 3 Easy Steps
If you're anything like me, you might assume enjoying oysters on the half shell should be saved for fancy nights at a high-end seafood restaurant. This is mostly because I never knew how to shuck oysters, and the idea of handling expensive fresh oysters is intimidating. To get a grip on all things raw oysters, I sought help from pro oyster farmers Rob Knecht and Sims McCormick, founders of Real Oyster Cult, which curates live oysters from 70 farms across North America out of Boston, MA.
Here you'll learn how to shuck oysters at home with ease. You'll also find details about how to store oysters, oyster benefits (that's right, oysters are good for you, too!), and some delicious oyster recipes.
How to Shuck Oysters
"Wear gloves!" This is McCormick's most important beginner tip for shucking oysters, so make sure you have the right oyster shucking tools to get started. Choose either special culinary cut-resistant gloves ($9, Amazon) to protect your hands from the sharp, rough oyster shells, or new, sturdy work gloves ($3, Walmart). If you don't have either, hold the oyster in a clean kitchen towel. You'll also want an oyster knife ($10, Amazon), which has a short and sharp, beveled blade to pry open the oysters. After rinsing the fresh oysters under cool water, follow these steps. (For a visual demonstration, watch Knecht in this oyster shucking video.)
Step 1: Insert Oyster Knife
With your glove on, take the oyster in your hand with the hinge facing toward you and the flat side up. (The hinge is the pointed, v-shaped end of the oyster.) Insert the tip of the oyster knife into the hinge between the shells.
Step 2: Open the Oyster
Once the oyster knife is wedged into the hinge, gently nudge and twist until the oyster pops open. Continue running the knife along the upper part of the shell until you cut through to release the muscle from the shell.
Tip: Keep the oysters as flat as possible when shucking them. Oysters take on the flavors of the water, sand, and mud in which they grow. These flavorful natural juices are known as "meroir," similar to "terroir" in wine, and you don't want them to spill.
Step 3: Clean Shell and Loosen Oyster
Remove and discard any bits of shell from around the oyster. "Almost like paring an apple," Knecht says to slide the knife under the oyster to sever the muscle from the bottom shell. Use this shell for serving the raw oyster on the half shell.
How to Shuck Oysters Without an Oyster Knife
It's definitely recommended to use an oyster knife when shucking oysters, but McCormick has an easy tip for opening oysters without a knife: grill them. Place oysters cup side up on the grill, then "let them sizzle for a few minutes until the top shell opens." You can enjoy them as-is, or McCormick's recommendation of adding a little butter, garlic, and herb. Our Test Kitchen's recipe for roasted oysters also easily opens the shells without tools.
How to Store Oysters
To keep your raw oysters fresh, be sure to keep them cool. Oysters can stay fresh for 7-10 days in the fridge. Whether you store in a cooler or your fridge, "the only important no-no is don't let them sit in water," McCormick says. If the oysters are on ice, make sure the ice can drain, or swap out the ice as it melts.
You can freeze oysters, but only if you plan on cooking them later. Freezing and eating oysters in the shell is not recommended by the USDA. The best way to freeze oysters is to shuck them and put the oysters (and juice) in a container. Shucked oysters can be frozen for 3-4 months, according to foodsafety.gov.
Are Oysters Good for You?
There are benefits to eating oysters, too. "There aren't many foods that can claim indulgence, treat, and super healthy all at once," McCormick says. "Eating an oyster is like taking a vitamin from the sea." Raw or cooked, oysters are rich in omega-3s, antioxidants, B and D vitamins, and protein.
How to Cook Oysters
You're now a pro at shucking oysters, so it's time to enjoy some amazing oyster recipes. If you're not eating them raw, there are plenty of ways to cook oysters. Go with a favorite oysters Rockefeller or broil them with our baja-style sauce. Roast oysters with a hearty blend of bacon, garlic, and hot sauce. Use fresh or frozen shucked oysters to make a classic oyster stew or an indulgent oyster stuffing for a holiday feast.